By Sarah Bregel
There is no right way to feel about giving birth -- every family makes their own choices for the occasion. Having had two drastically different birthing experiences, the only piece of advice I have to give is not about where to give birth or how to do it. My number one piece of advice is simply this: be as informed as possible. Regardless of what kind of birthing experience you think you want, your best birth will always be an informed one. Here are a few things to consider before the big day arrives:
1. Decide where you will give birth.
Having gone the hospital route for my firstborn, I opted to have my second baby at home. As much as I loved the experience, I don't believe home birth is for every woman. But it did make me feel comfortable on one of the most important days of my life. Many women prefer a hospital or a birth center. Consider all your options and do your research. Birth outcomes vary from place to place, largely depending on the model of care provided. See, for example, the Midwives Model of Care here. Hospitals and other providers will have their own models. Talk to everyone you can and read up on your surrounding hospitals' or birth centers' outcomes.
2. Make sure your birth place jives with your expectations.
Don't make the mistake of walking into a hospital thinking you're going to bounce on a yoga ball to ease your pain and instead you end up forced into a bed to labor on your back all night (yup, that was me). Do you want to walk the halls or labor in a tub? Find out what the standard procedure is instead of being surprised. Speaking from personal experience, you will really wish you'd read up! Know the policies frontwards and back so you can stand up for yourself, or better yet...
3. Have your partner or a doula present to stand up for you.
Having an educated partner by your side during birth is a huge plus. It can also be a lot of information to process quickly for first-time parents. This is why a professional support person during birth, otherwise known as a doula, is worth their weight in gold. They can help you manage your pain, explain things to you or your partner and play defense if hospital staff gets a little, uh, pushy (that's your job, right?). Not all hospitals and doctors practice evidence-based care and instead rush to perform procedures that aren't always necessary. Your doula will have your back when it comes to what you want.
4. Don't let the term "long labor" scare you.
Many hospitals are quick to intervene for the sake of delivering the baby in a timely fashion, freeing up the room, or other reasons that have nothing to do with your or your baby's health. Longer birth makes people nervous, but it doesn't necessarily mean there is anything wrong, especially if you're a first time mom. The Mayo Clinic breaks down the three stages of labor, and says that the early stages of labor can last six to 12 hours alone, with the delivery of your baby and the placenta lasting minutes to hours after that initial stage.
5. Remember, your due date is an estimation.
More often than not, babies come out on their own when they are ready. Many hospitals have become so quick to induce labor unnecessarily that the March of Dimes launched an initiative asking women to "wait for their babies." Going past your due date can bring anxiety and added discomfort, but many mothers say that induction and the use of pitocin (which causes intense, artificial contractions) makes for a far more painful labor.
6. Find the best care provider imaginable and ask them a ton of questions.
Remember, you are hiring this person to do a job for you -- a very important job. Whether you hire an obstetrician or a midwife, you are allowed to ask them questions. If anyone makes you feel badly about doing so, run and run fast.
7. Know that you are allowed to change providers at any time.
If you feel mistreated, uncomfortable or wronged by your care provider at any time, fire them! It is your right and you should exercise it. Perhaps if more women did this, policies and routine practices which do nothing to support the birthing mother would be forced to change. In essence, find out what evidence-based care looks like and seek it out, rather than just getting what you get.
8. Knowledge is power.
As someone who took a laid-back approach to birth once, I believe educating yourself is of the utmost importance. Be proactive about your care and leave no stone left unturned. Whether your birth goes off without a hitch, or there is something unforeseen that alters your plan, you will never regret doing your research, knowing your rights and giving yourself the best shot at the birth you want. Knowledge is power and there will likely never be a better time to feel powerful.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Bregel
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This piece was originally published by Sarah Bregel on Mommy Nearest. Sarah is a freelance writer based in Baltimore. She is also a yoga teacher and self-proclaimed "Mediocre Mama." Join her growing Facebook community or follow her on Twitter.
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